"Friends, like jazz musicians, play together variations on the themes of their relationship," Christine Leefeldt and Ernest Callenbach write in The Art of Friendship. This comedy is based on writer and director Rick Famuyiwa's memories of growing up in the middle-class African-American neighborhood of Inglewood, California, during the 1980s. His two best friends were there to see him through.

In the opening scenes of the film, Mike (Omar Epps) and Slim (Richard T. Jones) are trying to find Roland (Taye Diggs), who has disappeared on the day of his wedding. In a flashback, Mike (Sean Nelson) arrives from North Carolina to attend junior high school in "The Wood." He is immediately taken under the wings of Roland (Trent Cameron) and Slim (Duane Finley), who initiate him into their private club. In other flashbacks, these friends struggle to negotiate the tricky waters of adolescence in a run-in with the law and through a silly bet. Mike's relationship with Alicia (Malinda Williams), his first love, sets him apart from his two buddies, who are awkward with girls. The variations presented in the friendship between these three demonstrates how many men would rather stay "forever young" than commit themselves to adult relationships with the opposite sex.